Advent continues its countdown to Christmas Day. The great thing about the season, is that it can be just that… a season. Not just a single day.
The prayer for our family this year is “Be Born in Me.”
I’ve written a little book, based on a song, that is helping us focus this year. The cry of Chapter 4 is “Make my heart Your Bethlehem.”
Here is an exceprt:
Bethlehem. Do you know what the word means? In Hebrew “Bet” means ‘house’ and “Lechem” means ‘bread.’ So Bethlehem is “the House of Bread.”
We can see that Jesus, the bread of life from John 6, must be born in “the House of Bread.”
Jesus came to give us life, true bread and true sustenance. Jesus is all we really need isn’t He? He satisfies, gratifies and strengthens us spiritually, just as bread does physically.
And what happens when you don’t eat for awhile? You become weak, right?
When our prayer is, “Jesus, be born in me. Give me strength! Give me all I need for life!”
He says, “I have.”
May I encourage you as you enjoy a meal or two or three with your friends and family this Christmas season, to remember that Jesus is the true bread. He is our Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, who gives us all we have and all we need.
And may you allow your heart to be His Bethlehem… to be born in you.
Be Born in Me is divided into five sections and includes discussion questions so you can use in a weekly small group, family devotional or class setting.Here’s the link to the amazon web site: http://amzn.to/SNOkND.And here’s the link to the Kindle site: http://amzn.to/RI7ODe.
(c) 2012. Rich Ronald.
There were ten of us… we were forced to live just outside the gates of the city. One by one our group had grown to its present ten. I think I was the fourth or fifth to join the community. We spent most of our days begging for scraps of food by the road under the shade of a single tree. At night we huddled together and slept in the dust around its trunk. My family had last seen me three years prior.
I’m not even sure how I got it… my skin began to itch and scratch… my fingers and toes began to look different, blood oozed from the simplest scrape. I had heard about leprosy… who hadn’t? Believed that those who had it were responsible for it somehow… surely they had sinned or chosen a lifestyle that wasn’t appropriate. Next thing I knew, I was scolded, yelled at, spit upon, cursed at… told I was “unclean!” And I was forced to the edge of town.
For 12 seasons I had learned to deal with this awful affliction. The touch of my wife? Gone. Holding hands and walking with my daughter? No more. Wrestling with my son? Not a chance. Oh, how I longed for their touch. For anyone’s touch.
I had little in common with the others. They were Jews. I was from Samaria. As castoffs, they observed their traditions as best they could. I just wanted to be normal again.
One day the Teacher they called “Yeshua” walked by. We weren’t really sure what He could do for us. After all, what could anyone do for us? It was so unfair. It wasn’t my fault I was unclean! Oh, how I wanted to be clean… but no one ever recovers from the incurable.
We shouted the same words to him as we called out to everyone: “Have mercy! Have pity!” Ironic now, looking back… we did not cry out “Heal us!”
He broke His stride, stopping long enough to show compassion in His eyes and love on His face. He had nothing to give us. But His look… it was heartfelt, deeply sincere. His followers urged him to move along, but he motioned toward them as if to say “I want to linger here for awhile.”
We kept crying out: “Have mercy! Have pity!” though I, for one, did not know what He could do.
Then He spoke just six words. Six words. “Go. Show yourselves to the priests.”
We were stunned… I was not really sure what that meant. I wanted food. I craved a touch. But all we got from Him were words. Then the murmurings began. The Jews gathered together and moved as one. Like a sheep, I followed the flock. As we shuffled down the road I asked one of the Nine what the priests could do? “Don’t you see,” he said, “the priests can declare that we are clean.”
“But…” I stammered… “we are unclean…”
And with a second and third look, one at a time, we each began to realize the lesions had disappeared. One’s face was not blemished. Another’s hands were no longer bloody. The crusty sores up and down my legs were gone. What was happening?
The pace quickened as the whole group began to see a miracle right before our very eyes. We were being healed! We had been healed!
Suddenly I stopped in my tracks. The others ran ahead. I turned and looked back and saw the Master with a grin from ear to ear. Such joy! Such compassion… I looked as the Nine galloped toward the temple.
“I must go back and say thank you!” I said outloud to no one in particular. “Praise God!” I shouted as I looked and saw my now-healed, outstretched hands.
The thoughts started to swim in my head: Do you know what this means? I can go back and tackle my son. I can squeeze my young daughter’s hand. I can hold and caress my bride again. “Praise God!” I shouted over and over.
I sped with the urgency of a sprinter on the final lap back up to the crest of the hill where He stood. His followers and He… all smiles as I topped the knoll with little breath left. I threw myself at His feet. I couldn’t believe what was happening, what had happened. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I cried. “You don’t know what this means to me!” I said through my tears of joy and relief. And yet, somehow I knew that He indeed knew what it meant to me…
And as He put His hand in my tangled and matted hair He asked, “Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine?” And He looked at His followers and asked with an air of genuine perplexity, “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Not being a Jew, I didn’t fully grasp what he was saying… I was so thankful… I was healed! I was going home!
Then He said the most intense thing anyone has ever said to me. With an outstretched hand and loving eyes: “Get up. Go. Your faith has healed and saved you.”
Me? Faithful? Me? But I’m a Samaritan. I’m a sinner. Yes, I believed. Yes, I had faith… but it was only because my need was so great. I was desperate! Me? Healed? Yes! And saved? Yes, saved…
I had heard both Jews and Gentiles talk about being saved. It is something everyone longs for, I suppose. I’m not really a religious man… but do I want to spend eternity with Almighty God? Absolutely.
I went on my way as He directed… ran up to the gates of my home, ripping off the ragged bandages with each step. “I’m healed! I’m clean!” I shouted. “Praise God! The Teacher has healed me!”
My wife could not believe her eyes. My daughter squealed with delight. My son, now a young man whom I hardly recognized, gave me the biggest hug of my entire life. Ah, their touch… so sweet.
That was 25 years ago. I’m still clean… not a trace of the disease ever since. And I still believe that what the Teacher did that day — He touched me with His words — is reason to believe He will touch me for all eternity.
My interpretation of Luke 17:11-19. May you be one to give thanks today, and every day, for His words, His touch!
About 30 years ago I was a pilot. A student pilot really. While I had enough flight hours to get my license, college got in the way and I never obtained the ticket. But I did get to experience many cool things most pilots experience at least one time or another. Soloing. Taking off and landing in front of, and behind, jumbo jets in a little single engine prop. Stalling. Flying without power. And even vertigo.
Yep, I was flying with my instructor on a night-time cross country flight just south of Indianapolis. My head was buried in the dimly lit cockpit studying the sectional maps. I looked up quickly to check my bearings and saw the bright red flashing lights of a TV tower. It suddenly felt like we were heading in a nose down position racing toward what I thought were runway lights. I panicked. “Helen!” I screamed at my instructor, “We’re going down!”
Cool headed Helen told me to look at my instruments and to trust my instruments. Meticulously, but quickly, she took me from left to right across the instrument panel.
“110 knots,” I replied with great fear.
“Trust your instruments. Attitude?”
“Straight and level,” I said with some surprise.
“3700 feet,” I answered looking out the window still seeing the red lights that were no longer there. “Helen!”
“Trust your instruments. Vertical Speed?”
“Zero. So we’re not going up or down? See? Trust your instruments.”
Something about hearing that phrase for the third time. It was then that I snapped out of the vertigo experience.
Have you ever picked up the phone only to have someone on the other end give you some “rock your world” news? Perhaps it was news of an accident… a medical report… a death… an arrest… a confession…
In that single instant your world was shattered like a gust of wind against a dandelion where it feels like there’s nothing left except the stem. It happens to most of us, if not all of us, at one time or another. And, what did you do? Panic? Cry? Punch your fist at God? Did you ask, “I’m a Christian, for goodness sake… how did God let this happen to me?”
May I encourage you to remain calm in the crisis. Maybe it is because you are a Christ-follower that this has happened to you. I’m not saying that God causes bad things to happen, but this world is full of weeds and thorns… and you’re going to get stuck from time to time. Yes, God’s Holy Spirit surrounds you and protects you. But the Word also says the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, is a comforter. Now why would we need a comforter if we didn’t ever need comforting? God knew we would all go through seasons of great crisis. We all need to be comforted when we are in a crisis.
Is your world being turned upside down right now? Finances in a mess? A diagnosis in a medical report? A spouse calling it quits? May I encourage you to lean into the Comforter. Wrap yourself in His arms. Let Him hold you. It’s going to be all right.
Passover. It’s a Jewish holiday right? Yes… and no. You see, it was a celebration of the Passover where Messiah Jesus met with His disciples for what has traditionally been called “The Last Supper.”
Yep, the great, intimate evening, where Jesus washed His disciples feet and shared what most Christians call “Communion” for the first time, was actually a traditional meal celebrated by the Hebrews for centuries prior to the final evening Jesus would spend with His followers before His crucifixion.
So, the “Holy Eucharist” is actually a Jewish sacrament? Well, at its genesis, yes. You may ask “How can that be?”
Our family is Christian. I grew up in a Methodist church in Ohio, my wife in a Christian Missionary Alliance congregation in Western New York. We love and celebrate all that Jesus is and have desired to teach our children about the “Jewishness” of Christianity. In that spirit, we have celebrated the Jewish holidays that Jesus celebrated… Shabbat, Passover, Purim, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Tabernacles and even Hanukkah. Tonight we will celebrate Passover with some dear friends. Here is our family’s Haggadah, or story book, that joyfully celebrates Yeshua in the Passover Seder. It’s a little long, but it is chock-full of rich ties to Jesus.
Have you ever been challenged to write a “philosophy of ministry?” Recently I was asked to provide mine.
And while I know that I have one, I’ve never put down in words. So I prayed. And here it is.
PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY
“Hear O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is One! You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your strength.” This is the Shema, the call from Moses in Deuteronomy 6:45.
Jesus took this to the next level when asked by the pharisees about the greatest commandment by adding
“Love you neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 10).
It is with this conviction that my philosophy of ministry resonates.